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HOW WE MUST BEGIN ADVENT (1st Sunday of Advent, 2013)

 

immanuel  WE MUST, AS IN THE SONG OF SONGS, ASK HIM TO DRAW US

WE MUST, ASK HIM TO COME AND BE THE CENTER OF OUR ADVENT

AND SO WE SING, O COME O COME EMMANUEL

EACH VERSE RESONATES WITH OUR GREAT NEED FOR CHRIST,

FOR SATAN STILL PROWLS,

OUR HEARTS ARE STILL DARK,

AND THIS WORLD IS STILL FILLED WITH PAIN.

BUT AT THE CLOSE OF EACH VERSE IS THE BRIDGE

TO THE GREAT HOPE AND JOY OF CHRISTMAS!

ONE OF THE HARDEST THINGS FOR A WOMAN TO DO AT ADVENT IS TO BE STILL —

BUT THIS IS HOW WE MUST BEGIN. LISTEN AND WATCH AND LET IT LEAD YOU INTO PRAYER:

 

 UNLESS EMMANUEL COMES TO OUR HEARTS EACH DAY, THERE CAN BE NO SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS

UNLESS THE SUNRISE FROM ON HIGH RISES IN OUR HEARTS,

THERE CAN BE NO TRUE JOY

 WE MUST MAKE OUR SOULS “HAPPY IN THE LORD” BY

MEDITATING ON HIS WORD UNTIL IT CATCHES FIRE

CLINGING TO HIS PROMISES IN THE MIDST OF LOSS,

AND REPENTING AND RECONCILING WITH ANYONE WHO HAS ANYTHING AGAINST US

reconciled

 

SO INSTEAD OF BEGINNING ADVENT BY DECKING THE HALLS, LET US BEGIN MORE SIMPLY: BY ASKING EMMANUEL TO COME, ASKING HIM TO DISPEL THE DOUBT, THE GLOOM, AND TO LET HIS LIGHT SHINE ON THE PROMISES WE HAVE FORGOTTEN OR THE SIN WE ARE TOO BLIND AND STUBBORN TO SEE

I HAVE LEARNED, FOR I HAVE HAD SO MUCH PRACTICE, HOW TO GIVE A GOOD AND EFFECTIVE APOLOGY, ONE THAT USUALLY LEADS TO HUMBLING MY HEART AND TO RECONCILIATION.

I WANT TO TAKE YOU THROUGH THE STEPS OF A GOOD APOLOGY, AND TELL YOU HOW IT HELPED ME LAST WEEK, FOR ALREADY, MY ADVENT IS EXPERIENCING THE SUNRISE FROM ON HIGH WHICH ZECHARIAH SANG ABOUT. IT IS ZECHARIAH WHO DOUBTED GOD, BUT THEN DURING HIS TIME OF DISCIPLINE, REPENTED. WHEN GOD LOOSED HIS TONGUE HE SANG OF “THE SUNRISE FROM ON HIGH,” OR “THE DAYSPRING,” THE WORDS WHICH FIND THEIR WAY INTO

O COME O COME EMMANUEL.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

My prayer is that “the Sunrise from on high” will visit you this week. As you watch this rising sun, please pray the same for yourself, asking Him to dispel the clouds of doubt and to shine His light on your hidden sins and help you to respond in genuine repentance.

 

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 1ST. ICE-BREAKER

1. What stands out to you from the above and why?

2. Was there a way you experienced “Emmanuel” this last Thanksgiving week? If so, share a snapshot in words.

3. Watch Ann Voskamp’s video for the first Sunday in Advent at http://www.aholyexperience.com/  and comment:

Monday-Tuesday: Zechariah’s Repentance

(Sing O Come O Come Emmanuel each morning, contemplating the words, and using it as a springboard for prayer before you begin.)

4. Read Luke 1:5-25

      A. What do you learn about Zechariah in Luke 1:6?

    B. How did Zechariah respond to Gabriel’s announcement?

    C. If you are facing grief, what promises of God can you speak to your soul to dispel the clouds of gloom?

    D. How did God discipline Zechariah? Why, do you think?

Mary and Elizabeth and John the Baptist from Nativity
The Promise to Zechariah fulfilled: From the movie, “The Nativity”

5. Read Luke 1:67-79

    A. When God loosed Zechariah’s tongue after the birth of John the Baptist, what was the state of his heart? Why, do you think?

    B. What does Zechariah call Jesus in verse 78? How is this a fitting name for Him? How has He been this in your life?

      C. In Luke 1:79 find three things Jesus, the Sunrise from on High, will do.

Wednesday-Friday: RESPONDING TO THE SUNRISE FROM ON HIGH WHO LEADS US IN THE PATH OF PEACE

Listen to Trevor Wax on O Come O Come Emmanuel:

      Link

There are many ways The Sunrise from on high reveals our doubt, our sin. Last week He showed me that I needed to do what I could to be at peace with someone who was very angry with me. After stupidly entering into a political discussion on Facebook where emotions were running high, I angered a relative so much that he wrote me a long letter listing things he didn’t like about me and my family. I blistered. I built my defense. I tried to defend myself in an e-mail — asked if we could meet. He wasn’t interested. In my mind, the sin was primarily on his part, until the Sunrise from on high came to me. He worked through a brother’s testimony at church, through contemplating the Word, and through His Spirit.

6. What does Jesus say in Matthew 5:23-24?

This passage helps me understand why Tim Keller says “When there is a breech — it is always your move.” All it says is that if your brother has something against you, you should go and be reconciled. It doesn’t say how much of it has to be his fault, and it says to go in person and be reconciled. We may think our part if only 2%, but it is probably more, for our hearts are deceitful. But even if that is true, our part is to genuinely apologize for our part.

I knew I had to do it. I had to come out of the cleft and do what was right.

Arise, my love, my love in the cleft of the rock.
Arise, my love, my love in the cleft of the rock.

This time, instead of asking him if he would like to meet, I asked him if we could meet so I could apologize. Then he was willing.  Honestly, I still thought he was primarily to blame, but I absolutely know that in an effective apology, you are to apologize and not defend yourself or accuse the other. We are not to fix other people (how how my control idol rises!) but to leave them to God. How can we possibly do that? If we have learned anything from our last study on The Song of Songs, it is that God is for us, that His banner over us is love. So allow God to be in control of your brother, of your reputation, and of justice. He asks you to come out of the cleft and do what is right. When James tells us to confess our sins to one another that we might be healed, I think that means it may lead to not only physical, but also spiritual and emotional healing. So as I asked God to shed His light on my dark heart, and He did. Before I went, I prayed through Psalm 51 multiple times and asked the Spirit to help me not defend myself or attack my brother. No sideways comments. No guilt trips. Just my honest confession.

I began, when we met, by my confessing my sin, my stupidity, and how it hurt him. I also spoke the truth, saying, “There was some truth in everything you wrote to me, but if you could really see the darkness in my heart, you would know you have only scratched the surface of my sin. And I am so sorry and I am asking for your forgiveness.” As I confessed, I broke, for I felt the weight of my sin, weight I had not really felt before. I knew that was the Lord.  Then I was able to tell him things I appreciated about him, things he had done in love in the past. When we left, I sensed we were reconciled. Oh! The negative thoughts were gone, the energy the enemy was stealing was returned, and Emmanuel had come.

7. Based on the above, why should you go in person to apologize? Why not e-mail or Facebook?

8. Based on James 5:16, why should we confess our sins to one another — and perhaps especially the one who has something against us?

9. Why is an apology unraveled if you either defend yourself or attack the person to whom you are confessing?

10. Is there a way God is speaking to you?

Saturday

11. What is your take-a-way and why?

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170 comments

  1. All I can say about the video, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, is WOW! I love that carol. Beautifully portrayed and sung!
     
    Aubrey and I have been asked to sing at a community Christmas event tonight. We are singing Christian songs (Both of them were composed by the Gettys, and Stuart Townend, “Jesus, Joy of the Highest Heaven” and “In Christ Alone”.) Please pray that our words, our songs and our witness will touch hearts for Christ. This is an event which will be attended by some who do not follow our Emmanuel. 

    1. Diane, I LOVE the songs you and Aubrey are going to sing-so powerful! Yes, I will pray. 🙂

    2. oh Diane! Is there a way to video it? I would LOVE to hear you and Aubry! I will be praying–for heart to be turned to Him. What a beautiful thing to be a part o! I love that you are choosing to boldly sing truth–amazing how music can bring truth to hearts that might not listen to the spoken word, but can be softened through the music.

      1. Elizabeth, I love your picture!   You are beautiful inside and out.

    3. Sorry, no video. In any case, our singing is strictly amateur. Even home videos would scare me! I wouldn’t mind so much you guys seeing it, if there was one, but no way I would want others to see it.
       
      Anyway, the evening was quite enjoyable. It was a good opportunity to share the message of Christ. There was not a huge crowd, however, even for our little rural area, as we had 6 inches or so of snow today and the roads were somewhat slippery, so a lot of the seniors would not venture on the roads. The scenery is BEAUTIFUL however! Very “Christmasy”! 

      1. Diane, I think you can post to youtube and have it private to only those who have the address. I am looking into it for my dancing 🙂
         

        1. I would LOVE to see your dancing, Laura dancer! I didn’t know you could use youtube privately. 

  2. 1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
     
    I am so grateful Dee is sensitive to His leading in her posts, and I think this Advent post is one of her most beautiful, and best Advent post yet! The version of O Come O Come Emanuel is truly stirring-and I am encouragingly convicted! Everything stood out but I will pick just two:
     
    1. I need to be still at Advent for that indeed is one of the hardest things for me to do, and the encouragement to: BEGIN MORE SIMPLY: BY ASKING EMMANUEL TO COME, ASKING HIM TO DISPEL THE DOUBT, THE GLOOM, AND TO LET HIS LIGHT SHINE ON THE PROMISES WE HAVE FORGOTTEN OR THE SIN WE ARE TOO BLIND AND STUBBORN TO SEE. 
     
    2. UNLESS EMMANUEL COMES TO OUR HEARTS EACH DAY, THERE CAN BE NO SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS
    UNLESS THE SUNRISE FROM ON HIGH RISES IN OUR HEARTS, THERE CAN BE NO TRUE JOY
     WE MUST MAKE OUR SOULS “HAPPY IN THE LORD” BY MEDITATING ON HIS WORD UNTIL IT CATCHES FIRE CLINGING TO HIS PROMISES IN THE MIDST OF LOSS, AND REPENTING AND RECONCILING WITH ANYONE WHO HAS ANYTHING AGAINST US.
     
     
     

  3. (I cheated and read the whole study-and Dee’s testimony of reconciling with a brother-oh my..this brought tears and totally made my morning-for He came! AND to see His fruit in Dee blossoming-so wonderful. )

  4. Love, love, love the way Dee transitioned and pulled threads from SoS, both deepening powerful lessons from there and also inviting God’s continued work in areas He has begun working in my life.
     
    Scanned the rest of the study, and the reconciliation part is SCARY.  Seems much safer to avoid someone.

  5. 1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
    We must ask Him to come. Everyday, we must ask. Unless He comes…there can be no Spirit of Christmas…This really spoke to me this morning. I am home from church with a cold. I am a terrible patient. I get down if I stay in bed, so I tend to get frustrated when sick. But I hear Him telling me to rest, to be still, and to ask Him to come. He will not come uninvited. He waits behind the lattice wall–but He is ready to come leaping in as soon as we turn to Him. And He does, he leaps.
     
    I LOVED the music–that was beautiful, powerful.

    2. Our Thanksgiving was simple, the 4 of us out here miles and states away from all family–but we all felt this tremendous, overwhelming really, sense of His presence, His blessing. My youngest (just turned 7) thanked me for “the best Thanksgiving he ever had”! It wasn’t so much the food–I’m not that good, but I think a key for us this year was preparing our hearts. We made a Thanksgiving tree, using some of Ann Voskamp’s idea–hanging a leaf with a verse on a twig tree each night of November up to Thanksgiving, and had slips of paper the kids drew of something/one to pray for..also each night a Thanksgiving devotional or more from a book my husband has been reading the kids reading through (Grampa’s Box is excellent)…all that to say, we prepared our hearts–we asked Him to come, and He did. We didn’t have the house full like I grew up with, but is WAS full–His presence, honestly–I don’t want this to sound cheesy, He knows it is true–He filled our home, and I am thankful.

    1. Your Thanksgiving sounds so wonderful, Elizabeth. I loved how you prepared your hearts for thankfulness in the Lord.

    2. Elizabeth! I love your picture you are even more kind looking than I imagined and it makes me want to meet you in person! =) thank you for sharing your beautiful face. 

    3. Elizabeth-have always loved your Advent posts and times He has come and filled your home with His presence. and this: He will not come uninvited. He waits behind the lattice wall–but He is ready to come leaping in as soon as we turn to Him. And He does, he leaps.” -LOVED this description-He comes and He leaps!! 🙂

    4. Elizabeth-LOVE it when you post your picture!! So miss you. 

  6. Oh I am so, so excited to join in!! I just found Dee’s website a few months ago (even though I’ve enjoyed hearing her speak on Midday Connection for years!), but wasn’t sure if I should jump in at the middle of the SoS study, so I was excited to see a new study beginning! My husband and I live in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and although there are many fellow missionaries and women I would LOVE to do Bible study with (especially in English), it just hasn’t worked out timing/schedule wise yet, so I’ve been looking for an online community of women to engage with! Thank you Lord for Your provision! 🙂
    So, not sure if this is how it works, but here it goes:
    1. The first thing that jumped out was the comment about the hardest thing for a woman to do during Advent is to be still….this is SO true in my case! And as much as I love the carol “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”, I had never really meditated on the verse about Christ being our Day-Spring – the sunshine dispersing the gloomy clouds over my heart! Right now it’s rainy season in Bolivia and I crave sunshine – realizing that Christ fulfills that specific craving was so eye opening!
     
    2. On Monday of Thanksgiving week, after 12 years of marriage and many years of infertility struggles, my husband and I met our beautiful soon-to-be-adopted infant daughter, and we had the joy of visiting her throughout the week! Even though we still have a few weeks before she comes home, we have definitely experienced “God-with-us” and are even more aware of the deep symbolism of the Advent season!
    3. Oh – I just love Ann! Besides my fascination with her Jesse Tree and Advent Wreath (and pretty much all her rustic/Shaker style decor!), I love the way she emanates the peace of God and encourages us to experience the same!

    1. Welcome Rachel in Bolivia! We are so excited to have you join us. Love all you shared–especially your #2–wow! Praying now for all the details–what an incredible Christmas gift!

    2. Welcome, Rachel!

    3. Welcome, Rachel! And congratulations! What wonderful news. 

    4. Welcome Rachel! So wonderful to have you here-and so excited about the soon coming arrival of your sweet daughter. Yes, a gift from Him! 🙂 

    5. Welcome Rachel…so nice to have you join us from so far away!

  7. SUNDAY, DECEMBER 1ST. ICE-BREAKER
    1. What stands out to you from the above and why? 
    The statue stood out to me, I could feel the sorrow, repentance, and reconciliation between the two people.  A beautiful display of emotions in this statue.
    2. Was there a way you experienced “Emmanuel” this last Thanksgiving week? If so, share a snapshot in words.
    Im not sure if I understand experiencing “Emmanuel”, however God has really been leading my heart to reach out to others who dont understand or know of His love. So I invited a Dutch friend and her boyfriend over for Thanksgiving. She was raised in foster care here in the Netherlands and still has a tough time right now. She is just 20 years old. We also had an old friend, Brian, drive 4 hours from Germany too. Brian and my husband go way back and are great friends. This friend of my husband’s has gone through so much in life as well. So it was a wonderful, peaceful time together, eating, and laughing. Not my normal traditional Thanksgiving…normal meaning, more friends or family usually. I also was just getting over bronchitis(still am) and it just seemed a bit different this year. But not in a bad way. Just my heart has been to reach out to those and express kindness, and God’s love to them. ON another note, God has been showing me His love in return. This sounds odd, but I have a Turkish house keeper, she is muslim and I adore her. At first I was a bit hesitant, but a friend recommended her and she has been such a blessing. She is an older woman, making money for her household, of 3 sons and her sick husband. She is always happy, grateful and hugging me. The oddness is she speaks no English,but yet we communicate beautifully to each other with much appreciation and kindness for one another. God has really been showing me all day the joy she carries, even in all she has endured….and that is a huge witness to me. I also adore her hugs, for I never had a mom hug me. So that is my Emmanuel, not sure I got it right, but it makes me smile and brings me great joy in the people He has brought into my life.

    1. Love this post, Staci! It’s always so awkward for me to not be able to communicate with those who don’t speak English. I too, love those kinds of hugs 🙂

    2. Staci, first, I’m glad you are starting to feel better! I love your post and how you opened your home this Thanksgiving to your friends. And your housekeeper sounds so sweet…I love how the two of you communicate – with hugs…and how those hugs are ministering to you!

  8. In listening to the song, I was thinking about the name “Emmanuel”…you all know I love to explore names and their purpose.  When I think about God’s intention…He was saying (in my estimation), “I want to be nearer to You”.  This does have SOS overtones…the earthiness of that book (the shepherding, the animals, the spices, the coming King), I do sense overtones of Advent, never noticed this before.  I think the usage of the name “Emmanuel” is a snapshot of God’s heart, a clear image for us to see.  He doesn’t mean to leave us alone and He will do whatever it takes to be tangibly near.  Even if it makes Him vulnerable (after all, how vulnerable is a newborn babe?)…this is some kind of love for sure!  Advent through the eyes of SOS…now that is a new twist but very appealing in so many ways!   

    1. Rhonda, LIKE 😉

  9. As I watched Ann Voskamp’s video I was warmed by the light of the first candle of Advent.  Advent was not a concept that was part of my conditioning; however, as I have come to understand the meaning and the anticipatory aspect of this worship it is beautiful!  It builds and builds and builds and helps me to embrace the fullness of the season rather than just focusing in on one particular day.  It gives birth to a deeper understanding of what happens as we ALL await the glory of His coming! 

    I also honed in on a couple of words that Ann used in the beginning of the video…REAL HOPE!  I loved the fact that Hope was the videographer!  Hope makes me smile…she is the quiet presence featured in many photos, obviously engaged and full of life (love to see her climbing trees) HA!!  I believe that the hidden (behind the scenes) “Hope” gives us a wonderful childlike perspective and a bit of reality about the concept itself…Ann allowed us to be a part of something that is “real” and that is refreshing to me!  Hope isn’t just a good little tree climber but a pretty good photographer to boot! Some Christmas cheer!
     

    1. You know what I just realized…I think I associated the wrong name with Ann’s daughters.  The tree climber is Shalom!  Oops…but I was accurate in the fact that Hope (the pianist) does run quietly in the background with much poise…so it was an even more fitting observation!!!  It was fun to view the video through her lenses!!!  Just wanted to acknowledge my mistake….

    2. Rhonda, I can so relate to your post for celebrating Advent wasn’t something I was real familiar with until I came here to Dee’s blog.
       
       

  10. 1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
    “UNLESS EMMANUEL COMES TO OUR HEARTS EACH DAY, THERE CAN BE NO SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS. UNLESS THE SUNRISE FROM ON HIGH RISES IN OUR HEARTS, THERE CAN BE NO TRUE JOY. WE MUST MAKE OUR SOULS “HAPPY IN THE LORD” BY MEDITATING ON HIS WORD UNTIL IT CATCHES FIRE CLINGING TO HIS PROMISES IN THE MIDST OF LOSS, AND REPENTING AND RECONCILING WITH ANYONE WHO HAS ANYTHING AGAINST US.”
    It’s what I need to remind myself everyday.
     
     

  11. 1. What stands out to you from the above and why? I really appreciated the reverence in which the gentleman sang the hymn, my soul wells up with his. I also note the lyric “and ransom captive Israel” reminds me of the sonnet Dee shared in Idol Lies by John Donne “Take me to You, imprision me, for I, Except You enthrall me, never shall be free, Nor ever chaste, except You ravish me”. The concept of being captive by sin/idols but then He came to ravish and rescue us.  And the lyric “that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear”. This reminds me of Song of Songs, the bride lonely and then he leaps over the mountain to come to her. 
     
    2. Was there a way you experienced Emmanuel this last Thanksgiving week? If so, share a snapshot in words. I have really messed up in my attempts at mothering. I will spare you the details but God has changed my heart (and is still changing it) and I have been different since September. This thanksgiving break we had several times when I truly felt like I saw my sons in all their fantastic created beauty! What a joy (and lightness) to gaze upon my children with love and know that God has this and is restoring our relationship! It over flows my heart and I am smiling bigger than I have in a long time! My heart is free of the burden of my control idol to allow this joy of seeing my kids for who God made them and I get to be blessed to share their lives! They are smiling bigger, too. The snap shot would be of a small family reveling in the joyful company of each other. 

    1. Jill-this whole post gave me goosebumps. How you compared the song to Donn’e poem and then your testimony. You are sharing His presence with us so powerfully-How He has come in and is changing you and bringing restoration in your relationship with your sons..wow..

    2. oh Jill–your #2 just grabbed my heart. I love having you here. I understand not sharing the “details”–yet I know, just reading what you have put here, I could learn so much from you! You have encouraged me this morning, thanking Him for you. 

  12. 2. Was there a way you experienced “Emmanuel” this last Thanksgiving week? If so, share a snapshot in words.
     
    There were several snapshots. Before everyone got there, my brother’s family and I had a special time of worship in song. My nephews are musicians so they got out their guitars and cajun drum box and we all worshiped Him. Then, when the guests arrived-several there don’t want to know Jesus-He came in the  love I felt for them and the longing I had for them to truly know Him and taste His sweet presence.
     
    3. Watch Ann Voskamp’s video for the first Sunday in Advent at http://www.aholyexperience.com/  and comment:
     
    There are MANY gems in this video! 
     
    Hope in a world of problems is found in the solution of His Presence. The “Hope people” know there is always more than what is. In Christ your stump is not a stump there is more than you can see or feel-whatever you might give up on-there is more-a shoot, a hope ultimately is presence and Christ giving you His own presence.
     
    This video was amazing-We are the hope people-the hallelujah people, always anticipating Him coming and of the Him coming again where we will be with him in the new heavens and the new Earth. Advent means coming-waiting for the coming of Christ-we are perpetual Advent people. 
     
    In the middle of the breaking, the falling off the cliff, we hold onto Him-when we thought we were holding onto Him-the limbs of the tree- in our falling the tree catches us. When you are trying to hold on, he is really holding onto you.
     
     

  13. 1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
     
    First, we must, as in The Song of Songs, ask Him to draw us, ask Him to come be the center of our Advent…for Satan still prowls, our hearts are still dark, and this world is still filled with pain.
    Secondly, O Come, O Come Emmanuel is one of my very favorite songs. As I listened, I thought about how each verse resonates with our great need for Christ. I am just like “Israel”…I know the feeling of living in “lonely exile here” – because of my sin, because I forget Him. I am praying and asking Him to come and ransom me, to disperse the gloomy clouds of night.
     
    This certainly stood out: One of the hardest things for a woman to do at Advent is to be still. I have an extremely energetic daughter who has been determined to have the entire house, inside and out, decorated for Christmas…as we finish one thing, she’s ready to move right on to the next:))) After finishing the tree and putting out the Dickens Village, we did sit down together last night and light the first Advent candle and read the Scripture readings…I had no problem sitting still, but amazingly, she was still fidgety!
     
    I like the picture of the sculpture of the two people embracing, and I am glad that Dee, right at the beginning, has brought the subject of reconciliation into the forefront. It’s a truth, certainly, that Jesus came to reconcile us to God, but somehow in the rush of this time of the year, I can forget that, even when I’m thinking about Jesus and His coming as a helpless baby…yet this is central…and reconciliation with others, our own family members, neighbors, friends, can’t be overlooked – especially at this time of year when tensions can exist in families and we are pushing ourselves to get things done and can be more irritable and short-tempered because we are tired. I am anxious to have Dee walk us through this, using her own example, because there are people that I need to reconcile with.
     
     

  14. Comment on the video: 
     
    I have been thinking a lot about this-just the reality of this cold dark world-yet within the brokenness His presence-His light. The mystery of suffering-as Ann said is wrapped up in the Holy and we don’t know why-He didn’t come to give answers to the why’s but to walk with us in our suffering. It seems of late-almost daily-there is some brokenness, some issue that arises in my life and I endure suffering to varying degrees-and it is ratcheting up it seems-and I can easily become discouraged-so I need this encouragement daily.
     
    I like how she brought out Job and Job did just this-bottom line-He desired that God would be with Him in his suffering… and God was. I love how God swiftly rushed in to ravage Job with His love through His answers to Job-It was beautiful how God didn’t answer the why’s-He basically just said remember who I am and you don’t need to know why-just cling to me-fall in my strong, warm arms. And Job did.
     
     

    1. I totally get this Rebecca:
       
      “It seems of late-almost daily-there is some brokenness, some issue that arises in my life and I endure suffering to varying degrees-and it is ratcheting up it seems-and I can easily become discouraged-so I need this encouragement daily.”

      Life is so difficult sometimes, isn’t it? I mentioned that I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. I have felt the calm of Jesus with me throughout the entire ordeal so far. I didn’t mention it earlier because it all happened so fast. Plus, doesn’t everyone get breast cancer these days (1out of 8 women)? 🙁 It just continues on and on with one trial after another; money troubles, prodigal children, dying mothers, etc. What is left? If we can’t lean on Jesus then we have nothing. It can be so depressing. I thank God for this blog. Thank you Dee! You are a blessing to me. Thank you ladies! You lift me up when life is hard.
       
       

      1. Hugs to you, Laura Dancer, 

        What is left? If we can’t lean on Jesus then we have nothing. It can be so depressing. I thank God for this blog. 

        So many of us here are suffering in one way or another. So glad we have Jesus and each other.

      2. Laura, your are in my payers…so sorry for all your stuggles.

    1. Dee-:) I think you meant Susan- Oh yes, I agree-I love her teachable heart! 

  15. I loved Ann’s honesty at the beginning of the video of not really wanting to do the Advent videos-but God pressed on her heart to do it..I find so often that He comes in this way-usually when He comes it isn’t to keep me in the arms of my safe comfort zone-but to draw me out of the cleft and let His branches hold me.
     
    Like Dee’s post-coming out of the cleft of the rock to reconcile with her brother-that wasn’t a cozy, comfortable calling-but she stepped out fell off the cliff and let His branches hold her-and He lept and came! :))))  (So Elizabeth’s comment of Him leaping to come when we ask Him coupled with Ann’s metaphor of the tree’s branches have stuck with me-so really He has come to me through Elizabeth, Dee and Ann this morning! )

  16. This morning this stood out to me:

    SO INSTEAD OF BEGINNING ADVENT BY DECKING THE HALLS, LET US BEGIN MORE SIMPLY: BY ASKING EMMANUEL TO COME, ASKING HIM TO DISPEL THE DOUBT, THE GLOOM, AND TO LET HIS LIGHT SHINE ON THE PROMISES WE HAVE FORGOTTEN OR THE SIN WE ARE TOO BLIND AND STUBBORN TO SEE
     

    Dee’s words reminded me of a Philips, Craig and Dean song, Shine on Us.
     
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoYdQa6Cprc
     
    Dee’s sharing about the importance of reconciliation hits home in so many ways to me. During the last few weeks, I have had to deal with relationship issues as well.
     
    First, I spoke without thinking during choir practice and then realized that I had sounded harsh. Oh, how hard it was to go to that brother and apologize. But I did and I have won back a brother as a result.
    The second one is more difficult. A close friend who has known me for years confronted me about deep issues between us. I did not respond well. Now we are both hurting. Reconciliation is more difficult, because a simple apology is not enough. Our long history means we must talk and talk until we work through all the issues. We are still working on it. The deep reconciliation is made more difficult because it is a long distance relationship. Face to face is impossible right now. 
    Third, as you know, Christmas brings up all the weaknesses in family relationships — the wishing for reconciliation on my behalf which is not reciprocated. 
     
    It is always our move when it comes to reconciliation, as Keller says,

     “When there is a breech — it is always your move.”

    but sometimes God’s answer is “Not Yet.”
     
    Sometimes it is impossible to have everything perfect for Christmas in our relationships. When that is the case, I must rest in the promises that “I am my beloveds and He is mine.” I am adored by Him. He sees me “Just as if I had never sinned.” He will never leave me nor forsake me. I can run to His arms and find comfort — in His Light, Grace, and Love, as the Philips, Craig and Dean song says — and as Ann Voskamp’s Advent message says. When I run to Him, I will find that He is running to me. His passionate love will take me in His arms and soothe my aching soul.
     

    1. Diane! Another lovely face shared, I love your picture. You, too, look even kinder than I imagined. All these pretty faces makes me long for a true meeting! =) Thank you for sharing. A face picture really does make the fellowship seem ‘closer.’ =) praying now for your relationships and your heart toward reconciliation. 

    2. Diane–it so hurts to imagine someone being hurtful to you! A part of me just wants to defend you and call this unfair! But I will pray now for this relationship with your friend. I know how wearisome it can be when the wounds are deep and there is much to talk through.
      Lord, I pray that You would come and hold this friendship in Your hands, that You would soften their hearts to understanding one another–and bring eternal perspective. I pray for healing, for peace, for complete restoration. In Your Name, Amen.
       

      1. AMEN!

  17. 3. Watch Ann Voskamp’s video and comment: I love the terms “Advent people,” “Hallelujah people,” and “Hope people”. Good things said in the video. I will keep my eye on her blog now. I am guilty of having Christmas be a be a burden, I allow our selfish materialistic culture to take my joy from the holiday. What should be ‘magical’ and reverent remembrance becomes almost drudgery. I had already determined to develop some new traditions this year for our family since we will, likely, spend most Christmasses without extended family now, and our boys are old enough now to learn more, so this is helpful to me. 
     
    4. Read Luke 1:5-25. 
    A. What do you learn about Zechariah in Luke 1:6? He was righteous, obeying all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 
     
    B. How did Zechariah respond to Gabriel’s announcement? With disbelief and questioning (mistrust). 
     
    C. If you are facing grief, what promises of God can you speak to your soul to dispel the clouds of gloom? He is good, always has been, always will be. He is able. He is powerful. He is all knowing. He is provider. He is orchestrator. He is loving. He is gracious. He is attentive. He is unfailing. He is. (Like in Job, God didn’t explain why there I was suffering, God just stated who He is.)
     
    D. How did God discipline Zechariah? Why, do you think? It is interesting that fear was not ‘wrong,” it was the mistrust and disbelief that was disciplined. Or perhaps he was prideful? “How can I be sure of this?” Was he looking for a sign because he wanted to prove to others? Was he afraid to proclaim this and look a fool in front of piers and his wife? To me it seems he was letting logic trump divine, which is a common mistake in my life. God disciplined him by taking his voice and I think this would be a very humbling experience (there is no better replacement for pride than just listening to people and being quiet), and he finished his service and then went home and then his wife got pregnant so this was a long time! Perhaps not being able to speak gave him time for introspection to see his pride and idols and then repent and turn to God?

  18. Oops, did my name wrong in last comment…that’s not a real email address! =)

    1. Thanks so your kind words, jillwithaj. And as for you wrong email address, nothing showed up incorrectly here, so don’t worry.

  19. Hi Dee,
    I had to laugh as I sat at my laptop this morn and was led of the Lord to your new blog for Advent. The words, “One of the hardest things for a woman to do at Advent is be still”, in the margin of the screen (for I hadn’t yet opened the page) were ads enticing one to decorate more, and more, and more, and ribbons waiting to be tied and wreathes waiting to be hung were all around me in my home, and I sat sensing the need to “just get the decorations finished!”, but God, thankfully, had other ideas for my morning time. Though Satan still prowls and our hearts are still dark, I will choose to embrace the joy of being the alleluia people, as Anne spoke about, waiting with expectant hope for the completion of the last days where Christ will come again in glory.
    And today, what will dispel my clouds of gloom?  My obedience to read and believe that Jesus will be my sunrise and He will give light to my darkness of thought, and even in death He will be my peace.

  20. Diane–I came on just to hear how your singing went last night–and I get the JOY of seeing your beautiful face! Love that picture. I prayed last night for the singing–were you able to video?

  21. Deep breath…today seemed overwhelming, and the importance of the whole intro to this study is standing out to me. “The bridge to the great hope and joy of Christmas:” I’m crossing that bridge now. I’ve listened to O Come, O Come Emmanuel a few times, different versions.  The phrases that stand out to me this morning are “O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan’s tyranny” and “Disperse the gloomy clouds of night.”
    When I went to read Luke 1: 5ff, I looked back at the previous verses.  Verse 4 tells me why I am reading this: “so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”  It’s taking awhile to get “my soul happy in the Lord” this morning.  This might be partly medical, partly circumstancial & I am feeling Satan’s tyranny. 
     
    4. Read Luke 1:5-25
          A. What do you learn about Zechariah in Luke 1:6?
    Both he and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s sight and obedient.  It doesn’t appear that their infertility was the result of anything they had done wrong; it wasn’t God’s punishment.
     
    B. How did Zechariah respond to Gabriel’s announcement?
    First, he was startled and afraid (v. 12).  Then, after he was told that his prayer had been answered — beyond anything he could have imagined, he questioned the angel.  It makes sense that he would doubt when he was focusing on their ages, their physical limitations, rather than on God’s promises.    (Hmm … striking close to home, to a reason I might feel hopeless, gloomy even though I have God’s promises, HOPE)
    C. If you are facing grief, what promises of God can you speak to your soul to dispel the clouds of gloom?
    From Luke 1:  John was filled with the Holy Spirit; as believers, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.  The promise of Emmanuel, “God with us.”  Also, I was thinking about I Thess 4:13, 14.  Though we still grieve, we have HOPE in Jesus.
    D. How did God discipline Zechariah? Why, do you think?
    Zechariah wasn’t able to speak — perhaps so that he would be quiet enough to focus on God’s glory and His promises.  MAYBE so that he wouldn’t spread his doubts, but I do think God’s discipline was for Zechariah’s benefit.
     
    My soul is hopeful 🙂
     
     
     
     
     

  22. Wanted to share this from John Piper. It’s really good–
    Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent

    1. Thanks very much for this link to the Advent readings from John Piper. (It is a free download.) I really needed this. I have been looking for Advent readings and this is perfect! I just finished reading the Intro and think I will love it.  Thanks so much for thinking of us. 

  23. oh also wanted to share this–my husband and I have been reading the Piper I just posted, but this is the book we’ve been using for our family devotions and it’s a little easier for them to grasp (our kids are 7 & 10)–Nancy Guthrie’s “Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room”. We did it last year too and we all love it–it’s also nightly readings.

  24. This article  Come Lord Jesus, by Jono Linebaugh is very thought provoking.  The basis is that we need the “Law’ to show us our sin, which makes us want Jesus to”go away”. 

    But Jesus just won’t go away, especially not from sinful people—from the hurting and the hurtful, from the victims and victimizers. …
    Seeing our sin makes us say “Go away, Jesus.” Seeing that Immanuel is here to save us from our sins, seeing that the God who is with us is also forever for us, makes us say “Come, Lord Jesus.”

    1. thank you for this Diane–so rich “But the one who as Immanuel says “I see your sin” also says, as Jesus, “I came to save you from your sin.””

    2. I am thankful that Jesus just won’t go away, especially not from sinful people…from the hurting and the hurtful…

  25. The sunrise video is really powerful. I just watched it over a few times. As I ask him to shine His light on my hidden sins, to lead me to repentance…I am reminded at how His light overpowers all the surrounding circumstances. Look to Him, the Cross, and all my self justification, my explanations, my excuses…fade.

  26. Greetings, ladies.  Just wanted to let you know that I am doing Ann Voskamp’s, “The Greatest Gift,” for advent.  I will pop in here and there over advent, but won’t be participating fully on the blog again until after Christmas.  May we all have a blessed advent waiting…:)  BTW, nice pictures, Elizabeth and Diane.

  27. 1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
    I really like the statue of the people consoling one another. Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel was sung so wonderfully; I noticed the church mainly as he sung. WOW! I would love to see it in person. Is it in Scotland or something?
    I decided to listen to hymns as I was getting ready this morning and was waiting for Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel to come on but it never did! Instead, I had “Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus” in my head all day long! Oh well, it was a blessing too 🙂
     
    Not my favorite version, but it will do:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRAFQCOkjgE

     

    1. There were some verse to this version of Come Thou Long Expected Jesus that I was not familiar with. I noticed one of them referred to the Dayspring from on high as well. Neat!

  28. So funny! I started the day trying to hear “Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel,” but never hearing it on the internet radio. I am ending the day hearing it now 🙂 How sweet He is!

  29. 4. Read Luke 1:5-25
    A. What do you learn about Zechariah in Luke 1:6?

    He is a righteous man, blameless. He follows the Lord’s commands.

    B. How did Zechariah respond to Gabriel’s announcement?

    He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He questioned the angel. (I still can’t get past how John would not drink wine – how was Zechariah going to keep his son from being wayward in his teenage years?!)

    C. If you are facing grief, what promises of God can you speak to your soul to dispel the clouds of gloom?

    This one is easy considering the countless times my life has been difficult…..”God is good, God is with me. Jesus loves me and is always with me. He promised to always be there for me. I am not alone. He is near. Thank you Jesus for watching over me, thank you for your love for me.”

    D. How did God discipline Zechariah? Why, do you think?

    He took his speech. Funny, when Dee changed to the new blog formatting, I was forced the change the way I do the Bible study. I didn’t want to change because it meant I would have to get out of bed to do the study! I am not a morning person 🙁 For a while I have struggled with how to do the study. Everytime I would post, it wouldn’t post for me! This continued for a long time no matter what device I tried to post from. I was baffled! I joked one day with my friend that I thought the Lord was trying to shut me up on the blog! It was during SOS too! I really believe He didn’t want me to say anything…He wanted me to listen to all of you 🙂 It was the only way He would get through to me any little bit of SOS. One day I will return to SOS and hopefully have a better, more mature outlook then.

    5. Read Luke 1:67-79

    A. When God loosed Zechariah’s tongue after the birth of John the Baptist, what was the state of his heart? Why, do you think?
    He was filled with the Holy Spirit and was joyous. He prophesied and praised the Lord. He probably felt relieved (at first) that he could speak again (human condition), and he knew the Lord was near. The Lord fulfilled the statements of the angel and Zechariah could stand firm on his faith.

    B. What does Zechariah call Jesus in verse 78? How is this a fitting name for Him? How has He been this in your life?

    “The Rising Sun.” Jesus is the light and rose to sit with God His Father in heaven. As Ann V. said, “We are a people of hope.” He gives us hope when there is nothing left. He has been this to me, but not always. I had to open my heart to Him, to get to know Him, to trust Him. It has been a long journey, but I emphatically do trust Him. I think of that song that has the lyrics, “The sun comes up, a new day dawning…..” here it is

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXDGE_lRI0E

    1. Thanks for the beautiful worship song to start my day, Laura dancer. Lovely sunrise too! And so glad that you seem to have your “voice” back. LOL! Is your computer working better now? Glad you stuck with us in spite of your speechlessness.

      1. 🙂

    2. Laura, this song is one of my favorites, His presence is in it every time I listen. I love the phrase “Bless the Lord, O my soul” my soul wells up with praise. Thank you for sharing. I also wanted to tell you I am praying for you in regards to your difficult diagnosis of cancer. Though you mentioned it is not “rare” it is certainly difficult (as a nurse I have observed) and I pray that our Father God would be real to you each day in every step.

  30. 5. Read Luke 1:67-79. 
    A. When God loosed Zechariah’s tongue after the birth of John the Baptist, what was the state of his heart? Why, do you think? He was grateful v. 64 says the first thing he said were praises to God. He had listened long enough for his heart to be renewed, changed, to truly see God perhaps. He had also seen Gabriel’s prophecy come true, this likely increased his faith significantly, making him more prone to praise. 
     
    B. What does Zechariah call Jesus in v. 78? The rising sun. How is this a fitting name for Him? Because He brought light to the world. Hope comes wioth the morning, the rising sun. We can see now that we have light. How has he been this in your life? Sometimes I sit during study and just absorb the “rising sun”, not literally, but Christ’s love coming to me through study and meditation on His word. I can physically feel warmth upon my face. He has shone light on my dreary soul, and while it is ugly and I would prefer to keep it hidden, light is healthy and will allow Him to refine me and allows me to see that I need to submit more to His changing love to change my sinful heart’s tendencies. 
     
    C. In Luke 1:79 find three things Jesus, the sunrise from on High, will do. He will shine on those living in darkness, He will shine in the shadow of death, and He will guide our feet into the path of peace. 

  31. 4. Read Luke 1:5-25
     
    A. What do you learn about Zechariah in Luke 1:6?
     
    He was a godly man who observed all the Lord’s commandments blamelessly. Another thing I learn about him is in 1:13; when Gabriel tells him not to be afraid, your prayer has been heard…this tells me that even though he was old, Zechariah carried a sadness and a longing in his heart for a child. As he was in the temple making intercession for the people, he had a prayer in his heart about he and his wife being childless, too, and God heard it. Zechariah was old…it amazes me that he must have been praying or expressing his grief to God for many, many years…but he never stopped asking or talking to Him about it.
     
    B. How did Zechariah respond to Gabriel’s announcement?
     
    He felt unsure and questioned the angel’s words because he knew that he and his wife were too old to have a child…so there was doubt, some disbelief.
     
    C. If you are facing grief, what promises of God can you speak to your soul to dispel the clouds of gloom?
     
    From Job 14…”You will call and I will answer You; You will long for the creature Your hands have made.” God loves me and longs for me…one day I will be with Him.
    John 14:2…”In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.”
    Psalm 42…”Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him.”
     
    D. How did God discipline Zechariah? Why, do you think?
     
    Zechariah was not able to speak from that day until his wife would give birth to their son. I’m not sure why…but I’ll take a guess at it…I know that God had remained silent for 400 years, with no signs or words spoken through a prophet. So when Zechariah came out of the temple and the people saw he couldn’t speak, it says that “they realized he had seen a vision in the temple…” Of course, if he hadn’t been made silent, he would’ve come out and told the people everything he had seen and heard from Gabriel. This must have been a significant event for the people as they realized that something happened in there…was God breaking His silence…with Zechariah’s silence?
    I guess it also gave Zechariah a lot of time for introspection…
     
     

  32. Pondering the “The Sunrise from on high” reminded me of a beautiful worship song. Here the reference is to Jesus as “Daystar” (though I don’t know the origin of that word but it is close to Zechariah’s words) and it also refers to Lily of the Valley and Rose of Sharon (a definite reference to Song of Songs. 
     
    Daystar (Shine Down on me)

    1. Diane, this was just lovely….

    2. Oh Diane, THANK YOU!  I hadn’t heard this before and it penetrated my fears and other walls this morning.  Will listen a zillion more times.

  33. C. In Luke 1:79 find three things Jesus, the Sunrise from on High, will do.
     
    He will shine on those living in darkness and in death. He will guide us into the path of peace.
     
     

  34. 1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
     
    I had almost decided not to try to participate this week at all, but then decided maybe I could in a limited way.   It has been a trying time, to say the least.   It started on Thanksgiving night, but I wasn’t really involved until Friday.   A close friend from church was traveling with her husband, returning home from Thanksgiving dinner in northeastern Ohio.  They were driving the Ohio turnpike.   A young man went tearing down the turnpike (people were calling in reports left and right).  Troopers couldn’t begin to catch him, as he was driving (they estimate) near 150 mph!!   Tragically, he plowed into the rear of the minivan my friend and her husband were in.  Their gas tank exploded and their minivan was engulfed in flames. They both died.  Our church has been reeling in grief.  The children came into town and are holding out in the homestead.  They came to church on Sunday and sat together in the same pew with my family.   I was desperate to think of something to do to help, and the only thing I could come up with was to create a food-flow into their homestead so they wouldn’t have to cook.  I have been coordinating the Elders to do this. They didn’t get the release from the coroner until today, so the funeral will be Friday.    Under the circumstances, what stood out to me above was:

    O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer Our spirits by Thine advent here.  Disperse the gloomy clouds of night And death’s dark shadows put to flight.  Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.

     
     

     

    1. Deanna, so sorry to hear of this loss. Praying now for comfort to come to you all as you walk through your sorrow. =(

    2. Deanna, this is such a tragedy. You have a beautiful spirit, though, in the way you reached out to this hurting family with providing meals. May God comfort you and the family and your church family as you grieve.

    3. Oh, Deanna. Such tragedy! Praying for His presence and comfort for all hurting so much. 

    4. Deanna, I am so sorry.  Praying for you and for the family.

    5. Deanna, I too am so sorry for your loss. As I read your posts together in my email, this one and your thanksgiving one, I am thankful the Lord gave you that tender moment at Thanksgiving–being asked to share the blessing–drawing your heart near to His, reminding you of the love of your family. It occurred to He knew you would have to endure such loss and pain, and He wanted to remind you of His love.

      1. Elizabeth,  I like that thought a lot!   Thank you!

    6. Oh Deanna….how awful.  I’m so sorry for their family and friends like you.  What a blessing you are to them now.  Praying for you all.

  35. 2. Was there a way you experienced “Emmanuel” this last Thanksgiving week? If so, share a snapshot in words.
    My husband’s family gathered at my sister-in-law’s home for Thanksgiving. It is a big family. There were approximately 40 people present!
    Each family brought one or more dishes to share, and we assembled a mighty buffet!  As preparations were about to be finished, I suddenly wondered if I had locked my car.  I decided to go find my coat in a closet to get my car keys so I could just point and click from the front door to be sure my car was locked.   While I am digging deep in the closet, I hear my name being mentioned over and over again. It sounded like “We need Aunt Deanna,” “Where’s Aunt Deanna,”  “Get Aunt Deanna!”    I began to fear there was an emergency of some kind, and I aborted my efforts to get my keys.  As I started back toward the kitchen, my niece caught me by the arm and asked “Will you give the prayer before dinner?”  Now I understood what the emergency was 🙂    I agreed, of course.  After I had finished praying one of our nephews, who is usually clowning around, came to me and thanked me so sincerely for my prayer — I was touched.  Emmanuel was there.
     
     

  36. 6. What does Jesus say in Matthew 5:23-24? He emplores us to not offer a gift at the altar until we have gone to our brother and reconciled. I am convicted that it does not say if I have something against my brother but instead, if my brother has something against me. If he is angry it is still my responsibility to go to him, I assume even if I am not wrong (though as Dee pointed out, even if there is only 2% that is our fault that is 100% our responsibility to apologize for).
     
    7. Based on the above, why should you go in person to apologize? Why not e-mail or Facebook? Because He said to. Even though I know electronic communication is a modern concept, Christ still obviously valued our humility in a face to face conversation to apologize. He said to go to them, not just apologize, but go to them. Practically speaking face to face is more humble and sincere (even in exceptions when the person lives a ways away I suppose a phone call would be necessary rather than written communication).

  37. 5. Read Luke 1:67-79
     
    A. When God loosed Zechariah’s tongue after the birth of John the Baptist, what was the state of his heart? Why, do you think?
     
    His heart was full of thanksgiving and praise. As I read this passage, it struck me that while Zechariah said that his son, John, would be called “a prophet of the Most High, for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him” – everything else that he said was about Jesus. So I thought about Mary going to see Elizabeth and staying with her and Zechariah for about three months. During that time, even though he couldn’t speak, I think it was revealed to Zechariah that Mary was carrying the long-awaited Messiah. So when John was born, Zechariah exalts God and His Son, Jesus Christ – he does not exalt his son, John…and John, when he began his ministry, also never exalted himself, but continually pointed to the One who was greater than he.
     
    B. What does Zechariah call Jesus in verse 78? How is this a fitting name for Him? How has He been this in your life?
     
    “The rising sun will come to us from heaven”. Wow. The Rising Sun. I looked up the cross-ref in Malachi 4:2, “…the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings”.
    I find significance that He is called the rising sun, because that implies that a state of darkness exists first, and then comes the rising sun to bring the light of dawn…and it doesn’t stop there…it continues to climb higher and higher in the sky until all is bright and fresh. It brings warmth, it dispels the fear and anxiousness that clings to the shadowy darkness. When I take my eyes off of Him, the trials of life become looming and larger than they should; I feel discouraged and alone. I forget that He is with me always.
    Last week I listened to another sermon by Mike Reeves at that link and he said it only takes an hour…or overnight, to forget what Jesus is like. That’s awful – but it’s true. How quickly can Satan and the cares of life snatch away a truth learned, steal the warmth and light that I may just have experienced during prayer…feeling so certain that God met me and then, an hour later, the darkness starts creeping back in. I guess that is the constant battle of life here on this earth. I don’t know of any other source of “light” to run to other than Him.
     
    C. In Luke 1:79, find three things Jesus, the Sunrise from on High, will do.
     
    He will shine on those living in darkness. He will shine on those living in the shadow of death. He will guide our feet into the path of peace.

    1. Susan, you always find “more” in the passages. I appreciate reading your posts because you always point out something that I had not thought of, you are very perceptive. Thank you for sharing.

    2. 8. Based on James 5:16, why should we confess our sins to one another – and perhaps especially to one who has something against us? “so that you may be healed.” (As Dee said in her post, healed physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.)
       
      9. Why is an apology unraveled if you either defend yourself or attack the person to whom you are confessing? Because then it becomes about you. Defending yourself or pointing out the others’ flaw or mistake makes it a case before a judge about who is better/right. Noone wants to compete for a verdict so it renders the apology useless. We need to confess our sin in apology, not the sins of others. If you feel a need to defend yourself or attack the other, you are feeling a need to serve your idol, mine would be approval in this case. Serving idols will not restore relationship, nor does it allow you to align with God (He would have you confess your sin and be forgiven, not proved right).
       
      10. Is there a way God is speaking to you? Its a little muddely for me. I get ‘haunted’ by many past embarrassing mistakes (some kind of recent and others from many years ago).  My approval idol wants to fix these and search for people to apologize to in order to have them remember me fondly but I am pretty sure this is more of an idol issue than it is actual conviction to seek and apologize. I think the devil uses regrets to tempt doubt. That said, I would like to be sensitive to the Lord’s leading if there is someone I need to approach. My eyes will be looking. I struggle with apologizing for approval and not necessarily to confess sin (as in I don’t feel ‘convicted’ to apologize I just want to make sure people like me).

      1. Jill, I am so encouraged at how sensitive you are to your propensity toward idolatry-I am so kindred with you in this for my heart is deceptive and dark! I can easily forget to ask Him to show me if what I am saying or doing is out of a motive of desiring approval, or comfort, or control. Lately I have chosen not to speak, and erased emails, blog posts etc..for I knew my heart wasn’t right, but there are times I don’t know and only He really knows the depths of my heart. I am learning, albeit slowly, that I need to rest in His Sovereignty. It so sounds like you are doing this now-by being sensitive and willing to follow Him when He leads you to that person you need to reconcile with-and I am sure if there is no one now, in time there will be someone and He will show you. 🙂  He shows me SO OFTEN in my relationship with my husband-so heck I just have to start here at home. Yikes! 
         
        I need to grow in trusting Him to move through me with each step-each word that comes out of my mouth-even if I doubt my heart motives in going to someone to apologize. I so often don’t wait on Him! Oh my heart- but grateful He has me and isn’t finished transforming me yet! :))
         
        Sorry this is so long! Your post helped me to process what I have been thinking and learning lately-thank you!

  38. 3. Watch Ann Voskamp’s video for the first Sunday in Advent at http://www.aholyexperience.com/  and comment:
     
    First of all I couldn’t get the link to work.   I would always get a page saying that the site was not available.    I thought maybe it would improve the next day, but it didn’t.  So finally I Googled “Ann Voskamp First Sunday of Advent” and I found it that way.   I haven’t noticed anyone else complaining of problems, but I can’t imagine that I would be the only one — what skill is required to click on a link?!!   Of course, I am coming along late — perhaps something happened to the link after the rest of you had finished with it.   Whatever!!
     
    I have to confess this was the first time I have ever seen Ann Voskamp.  I was quite impressed with her quiet, sweet, soul-searching delivery.  Naturally at this time, I really needed to hear about “Hope.”   I  very much liked her remarks about when we fall off the cliff and grab for the branch to hold on to, but the branches are also holding on to us.

  39. 4. Read Luke 1:5-25
          A. What do you learn about Zechariah in Luke 1:6?
    He and his wife were upright, observed all the commandments and regulations blamelessly.
    Sorry,  I am a little critical of that word “blamelessly.”   My take on it is that they did a very good job, but I rather doubt anyone could follow the law blamelessly.
        B. How did Zechariah respond to Gabriel’s announcement?
     
    At first he was gripped with fear at the sight of the angel.  Once he had heard the message, he had a few questions he wanted to ask as he was having difficulty believing.  I know I would do the same thing.   
    C. If you are facing grief, what promises of God can you speak to your soul to dispel the clouds of gloom?
     
    The promises that He will not abandon us and will be with us through everything — the thick and the thin of it!
        D. How did God discipline Zechariah? Why, do you think?
     
    He rendered Zechariah speechless for months — until the baby was born.  That had to be so hard for him.   It would do me in! 🙂     The angel said it was “because you did not believe my words….”   I’m not sure it was so much punishment as it was to call special attention to John’s birth and to give Zechariah the time of silence to think about what was happening.

    It was a miracle — and I want to point out: it happened while the people were in the outside court praying!!

  40. 5. Read Luke 1:67-79
        A. When God loosed Zechariah’s tongue after the birth of John the Baptist, what was the state of his heart? Why, do you think?
     
    He was full of praise and prophecy.  I am sure he was relieved to be able to speak again, and he his period of silence  had given him time to develop his message God wanted him to deliver.    

    B. What does Zechariah call Jesus in verse 78?  He calls Him “the rising sun.”

    How is this a fitting name for Him?  It is fitting because Jesus brings light to the world.

    How has He been this in your life?  Oh, many times, He has come to me when all seemed like darkness.  I didn’t know He was near, but suddenly He shows up on the horizon, and He just keeps coming, casting light on my circumstances until the problem is fully resolved.

    C. In Luke 1:79 find three things Jesus, the Sunrise from on High, will do.  (1) To shine on those living in darkness,  (2) to be with us when we are in the shadow of death,  (3) and to guide our feet into the path of peace. 

  41. 6. What does Jesus say in Matthew 5:23-24?
     
     
    Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. 
     

     

  42. That last post was only about one-third of what I actually wrote.  I have no idea where the rest went! I will try to reconstruct the rest of it again:
    I feel that God is far more interested in our relationships with one another than he is with our material offerings.  I also think that Jesus didn’t just mean this teaching to only apply to when we are giving our gifts, and that he used this example because no one would ever consider stopping in the middle of presenting their offering.  So Jesus is really saying that reconciliation is more important than anything we are doing — don’t wait until we have finished our task before taking care of these loose ends. 
    Now, all that having been said, I must admit that there have been times I have given my gifts when I knew there were bad feelings between me and someone else.  This teaching of Jesus is one of His hard ones, and is not easy for me to accept.    So the first step is getting past the denial and admitting that, yes, I have been told to do something!  

      1. Thanks,  Dee!    I have done as you requested.   

  43. Oops – running a bit behind this week (bolivian time! :), but I’m REALLY enjoying reading everyone’s comments. You all are so insightful!
    4. I notice that Zechariah was righteous before God, yet he and his wife STILL suffered (infertility and probably lots of other problems!) – just like many people today!
    I like the Message paraphrase for Zechariah’s reaction: “Do you expect me to believe this?”! In my own life, I’ve had to cling to the promise in Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in Spirit”.
    I would wager God was keeping Zechariah from sticking his foot farther into his mouth – so Zechariah was “forced” to just listen, wait, watch, and see God’s promises fulfilled!
     
    5. I think after 9 + months of literal quiet time with God (and probably studying the Scriptures, meditating, etc.), Zechariah’s heart was probably very attuned to the fact that God was on the move! I love the fact that Zechariah calls Jesus the sunrise – as in, His mercies are new each morning!

  44. I just found out that we will have a guest at our house for a few days (at least), arriving Friday. She is a senior woman whose husband has been hospitalized and she is unable to stay by herself. She has health issues, including diabetes and a lot that I am not familiar with. Her son (who lives in another province) is looking for a place for them to stay (nursing home or special care home but that takes time.) Her husband possibly will be released from hospital in a week or so, but he will need care as well, probably more than I can give.  I need prayer and maybe even advice.  I have never cared for a senior needing care. She had no place to go and I felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit to open our home to her. I am very nervous about doing this. Definitely out of my comfort zone. I have no idea what I am getting into.

    1. oh Diane–your heart humbles me. Writing this request down to remember to continue to pray. I have no advice, but I will pray!
      Lord, I do lift up dear Diane to You. Thank You that she and Aubrey are responding to Your Spirit, opening their home to one with great need, trusting in You to guide them and strengthen them. Lord, I ask that You shower them with Your wisdom, peace. Calm her anxieties and may Your presence overwhelm. Thank You for Your fruit in Diane, giving so selflessly in her own time of pain. Thank You for this example in my life. We lift Diane, this woman, and her husband  up to You–please use this opportunity for Your purpose and glory. Amen.

      1. Thank you Elizabeth…and I pray with you for Diane…you humble me so.

  45. oh I underestimated the power of a bad cold! I am very behind and my answers are not of any depth, just trying to catch up!–but this week is so so good and I have enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughts.

    4. Read Luke 1:5-25     

    A. What do you learn about Zechariah in Luke 1:6?

    He was righteous before God, he walked blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.  
     
    B. How did Zechariah respond to Gabriel’s announcement? 

    He questioned how he should know this, he did not believe what he had heard.    

    C. If you are facing grief, what promises of God can you speak to your soul to dispel the clouds of gloom? 

    God will never leave me nor forsake me. His power super cedes everything else. Nothing surprises Him. He is always at work. He loves me fiercely. Nothing will ever separate me from His love. His love cannot be earned, He gives it freely, fully, overwhelmingly, to me.    

    D. How did God discipline Zechariah? Why, do you think?

    He made him unable to speak until the day John the Baptist was born.

    5. Read Luke 1:67-79   
    A. When God loosed Zechariah’s tongue after the birth of John the Baptist, what was the state of his heart? Why, do you think?

    He was filled with the Spirit, filled with joy, praise, thanksgiving. He had realized his sin in doubting God, he realized his place, and God’s majesty. He was humbled!   

    B. What does Zechariah call Jesus in verse 78? How is this a fitting name for Him? How has He been this in your life?

    The Sunrise from on high. The sun never forgets to rise, it is under the command of God. It brightens all that it shines upon, and the darkness cannot quench it. In my times of deepest sadness, there has at times seemed to be an encompassing darkness, like a blanket that does not comfort. But in those times, the Lord has graciously turned my eyes back to His promises—now more quickly than I used to, but He always calls to me, and I hear Him, and it is the sun shining into my dark. When the Light comes into my pain, I see things I could not see in only darkness. I see ways He is using it to bring deeper intimacy with Him. He uses it to cause me to slow down, to change my perspective—to see a grander picture. He opens my eyes to hope.      

    C. In Luke 1:79 find three things Jesus, the Sunrise from on High, will do.

    He gives light to my darkness and in the shadow of death, He guides my feet in the way of peace. His Word is a lamp to my path.

    1. Elizabeth-You inspire me-I am not sick but am behind! I need to catch up too and that is hard because I don’t like going fast through Dee’s studies! 🙂

  46. Good Gospel Coalition article from Trevin Wax– he shares some of the same thoughts as the clip Dee gave above-
    O Come Again, Emmanuel: An Advent Meditation

  47. 6. What does Jesus say in Matthew 5:23-24?
    “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
    I thought what Matthew Henry says is so helpful “till this be done, we are utterly unfit for communion with God in holy ordinances…if thou are the party offended, there needs not this delay; if thou have aught against thy brother, make short work of it; no more is to be done but to forgive him…but if the quarrel began on thy side, and the fault was either at first or afterwards thine, so that thy brother has a controversy with thee, go and be reconciled to him before thou offer thy gift at the altar, before thou approach solemnly to God in the gospel-services of prayer and praise, hearing the word or the sacraments.”
    I was in a church almost 20 years ago, and right before Communion, the pastor read this verse and encouraged us to go then and be reconciled—if it was someone within the church, to quietly go to them, if not, to go and pray alone—we all closed our eyes so no one watched others as they left the sanctuary, some needing to find another person…he gave us 5 minutes before coming back to Communion. It still greatly impacts me—my relationship with God is broken when I have sin between me and fellow believer.

  48. 7. Based on the above, why should you go in person to apologize? Why not e-mail or Facebook?
     
    “leave your gift…and go” It is a physical image to me. He says “go”, not “call/type…” I think my willingness to physically make the effort to meet my brother where he is, shows a willingness to also meet him emotionally and spiritually, where he is. It shows the relationship is important enough to me to make time, to listen—to see body signals, to be able to hug. I also know that email, etc…can bring in a tone never intended, and it may seem more like I’m just trying to check the task off my to-do list, than really engage in the relationship